As I write this, the Irish national football team is in the midst of their most successful run of form in years.
However, unlike days gone by when Ireland's top performances were highlighted by the heroics of one player (Paul McGrath vs Italy at the '94 World Cup for example) or a moment of match-winning skill (Packie Bonner's save from Timofte or Robbie Keane's goal vs Germany), it is the stubborn determination of Giovanni Trapattoni which epitomises Irish football today.
Trapattoni arrived on the scene at a time when Ireland seemed to have stopped producing world class players. There is no Giles, Brady or Roy Keane in the ranks for the Italian to pick and if Shay Given, Robbie Keane, Damien Duff or Richard Dunne were absent it would be a very average side.
Trap realised this fact not long into his tenure much to the chagrin of the Irish football fan, who cried out that the manager was unfairly overlooking some of our more creative/exciting players (Reid, McCarthy, Coleman) in favour of the workman-like performances of Whelan and Andrews.
Trap's Ireland side would not be based on the skill of a couple of players but rather a team effort of discipline and football not entirely easy on the eye.
After the debacle in the play off against France, he stuck to his guns. There would be no change in philosophy and two years later, half way through a two-legged tie with a place at the European Championships at stake, Ireland is as close to major tournament football as it gets.
Barring complete self destruction against the Estonians, the Irish will be represented at the Euros for the first time in 24 years.
Of course, luck has been on our side in this campaign, especially in the last three matches (a miraculous no-score draw in Moscow and the red cards for Armenia and Estonia have eased our passage), but without Trapattoni at the helm it is unlikely Ireland would be this close.
It may not be the exciting football we wish for but it seems to work for us and perhaps the ends justify the means. Nothing justifies having Paul McShane in the squad though—sort it out, Trap.
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